Focus Points for birds?

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by 250Gimp, May 3, 2008.

  1. 250Gimp

    250Gimp TPF Noob!

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    Hi all

    I have been trying my hand at shooting some birds lately, and it has left me with some questions.

    When you are shooting birds in flight do you use all your focus points on the camera, in AI Servo, or do you use the center focus point? I have tried the center point and only had minimal luck with it. Perhaps it is just that I need practice.

    I know my camera is not the best for this, Canon 350d, but I still enjoy trying.

    Thanks for the help.

    Cheers
     
  2. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Ahh the 350D is still a very capable camera to use. I wonder what lens you were using for this though as that might be a limiting area (after technique of course)

    As for the technique you definatly want to use the centre focusing point and set the focusing controls to AI servo - that way you can keep the centre point of the camera on the target (I think aim for the middle of the bird - depending on how far away it is) and let the camera focus on the bird as it shifts and moves
     
  3. 250Gimp

    250Gimp TPF Noob!

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    Thanks Overread!

    I am using a new to me 70-200 f4 L. The focus seems really good on the lense, I think it is just that I am not too good at tracking yet. I will keep trying and see how it goes.

    Cheers
     
  4. Mike_E

    Mike_E No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Use a larger f number/smaller aperture if you are having problems getting the right spot in focus on the bird. DoF can be a tricky subject. :)

    It could also be that you don't have a fast enough shutter speed.
     
  5. uplander

    uplander TPF Noob!

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    I beg to differ on the focus points. I use all of them as it is very hard to keep just the center one on the bird. By using all of them the camera has better ability to stay focused on the intended target because as the target(bird) slips from one focus point to another the camera contunues to mantain focus on the target. By using only the center one as soon as the target slips off the focus point the camera starts to hunt out to infinity and back or vice versa and you almost always have an out of focus subject.
     
  6. 250Gimp

    250Gimp TPF Noob!

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    Thanks Mike E, I will try that. I hadn't thought of it from the DOF point of view.

    uplander, I thought that may be the easiest way as well. I will try experimenting with both a bit.

    Cheers
     
  7. Marnault

    Marnault TPF Noob!

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    The problem I have with using all focus points is that unless the background is just blue sky it is very easy for the camera to focus on the wrong thing. This is especially true when shooting in the woods with lots of branches nearby. I normally use my lenses wide open for a small depth of field and nice background blur for birding, so if the camera focuses on anything other than the bird the image will be unusable.

    For this reason I always use the center focus point, and while tracking can be tricky its one of those things that you get better at with practice. One trick I use if I miss focus and the lens starts to hunt is to quickly use the manual focus so you can at least see the bird again and once centered you can use the auto focus again. But to do this you really need to have full time manual focus and a nice focus ring. Some of the consumer lenses either don't have full time manual focus or nearly unusable focus rings.


    Thats a great lens, I have one my self. But it can be tricky to use for birding unless you can get really close, but keep at it, if anything you will get good at being sneaky so if/when you get a longer lens it should be a walk in the park. :) You want to look into a 1.4 teleconverter, its not a huge improvement, but 280mm is still better than 200 for birding. The 1.4 will slightly reduce your sharpness but not by that much, just avoid the 2x teleconverter since you will lose your AF and it really hurts image quality.

    The biggest issue I found with this lens is that unless you are quite close the bird will be tiny in the viewfinder which just makes it harder to track. The lens is fairly quick to focus, and very accurate, both good things. but can also work against you, such as if shooting into a wooded area, the focus will lock onto pretty much any little branch or leaf that happens to fall under the center point, so proper tracking is paramount. With practices you will get better, and digital makes practicing all that much easier.
     
  8. 250Gimp

    250Gimp TPF Noob!

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    Thanks for the info Marnault.

    I am going from a Tamron 70-300 to the Canon 70-200 f4 L so I did notice the shorter range quickly, so I have since purchased a 1.4x TCon and am getting used to the set up.

    I really like this combination so far!!
     
  9. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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    The 70-200 is a lens that I am intending to get in the nearish future (though I hope to get the 2.8) but I belive both will work very well with the 1.4 and also the 2* converters - the 2* might be a good idea for tracking birds and getting a good 400mm end out of the lens
     
  10. uplander

    uplander TPF Noob!

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    Your right when looking at that way. If you have a lot of clutter,I use just the center point but most shots of birds in flight you tend to have a basic background such as a blue sky and all of them helps tremendously.

    Shooting BIF's in a cluttered background is a hit or miss oppurtunity and down right an exercise in futility sometimes.:lol:
     
  11. andrew99

    andrew99 TPF Noob!

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    Lots of great tips here. My only advice is when shooting, push the shutter release all the way down, not halfway, then pause, then the rest of the way. If you have a pause between focusing and taking the shot, the bird can move out of focus.
     

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